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When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes

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When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Nov 2018, 09:11
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When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes, I always tell my students that I absolutely believe in UFOs. After a brief pause for incredulous stares, I ask them to think about what the term UFO actually means. I explain that I fully believe there are objects in the sky that the average person may not be able to identify. This does not mean, however, that no one can identify these objects. It only means that they could appear 'unidentified' to someone who is not familiar with the sky or with the full range of sky phenomena that can surprise a novice. Indeed, upon more careful investigation, many so-called UFOs turn out to be perfectly natural objects or processes in the Earth's atmosphere or beyond. As the late Carl Sagan emphasized, 'Extraordinary hypotheses require extraordinary proof.' Surely, the notion that some mysterious phenomenon you briefly observed in the sky must be an interstellar spacecraft (and not a human craft, meteor, or a bright planet) qualifies as such an 'extra-ordinary' hypothesis! Yet, amazingly, given the number of UFO incidents believers report, not one UFO has left behind any proof - a piece of spacecraft material or machinery (or even a sandwich wrapper) that laboratory analysis has shown to be of clearly extraterrestrial origin. It's also remarkable how unlucky the UFO occupants are in their choice of people to kidnap. Never do 'aliens' seem to snatch a person with a good knowledge of astronomy or physics or someone with high-level government clearance. Time after time, their 'victims' turn out to be homemakers, agricultural workers, or others whose relevant knowledge base seems to be limited to reading UFO enthusiast literature. Even UFO sightings turn out to be reserved (for the most part) for those who have not studied the sky in any serious way. Although the world's supply of professional astronomers is not much larger than the population of Wasilla, Alaska, the world has many tens of thousands of active amateur astronomers who spend a great deal of time observing the sky. You would think that if UFOs really are alien spacecraft, a large majority of reported sightings would come from this group. Yet, unsurprising to astronomers, you almost never get UFO reports from experienced amateurs whose understanding of what they see in the sky is much more sophisticated than that of the average person.

All of which does not mean that astronomers in general are pessimistic about the presence of intelligent life on planets around other stars. Indeed, many observations over the last few decades have increased the level of optimism in the astronomical community about the potential for life to exist out there. Primary among these is the discovery of more than 300 planets around relatively nearby stars, which certainly shows that planetary systems like our own may be far more common than we dared to hope. We just don't think that intelligent aliens are necessarily visiting Earth. The problem is that the stars are fantastically far away. If our Sun was the size of a basketball (instead of 864,000 miles across), Earth would be a small apple seed about thirty yards away from the ball. On that scale, the nearest star would be some 4,200 miles (7,000 km) away, and all the other stars would be even farther! This is why astronomers are sceptical that aliens are coming here, briefly picking up a random individual or two, and then going back home. It seems like an awfully small reward for such an enormous travel investment.



1) The primary purpose of the author in the passage is to:

a. make distinctions between those who are mere lay people interested in the extraterrestrial and qualified scientists and astronomers.

b. present us with a wealth of information to enable us to make our own judgements regarding UFOs.

c. justify the presence of UFOs through examples of sightings and people's accounts.

d. debunk claims about UFO sightings by lay people, using reasoning and analysis to back his assertion.

e. state that though he does not believe in the stories of UFO sightings, he believes in the existence of aliens.


2) The author's statement in the first paragraph that he 'absolutely believes' in UFOs is:
a. purely sarcastic.
b. intended to ridicule those who believe in UFO sightings.
c. sarcastic, but also with a different meaning to it.
d. an honest and genuine assertion.
e. none of these.


3) Which of these is a main argument of the author against the reported sightings of UFOs?

a. UFO sightings are uncommon and seem to be experienced only by lay people, and not by astronomers; hence they are unrealistic.

b. UFO sightings seem to happen only to amateurs with basic scientific knowledge.

c. UFO sightings are common only in certain areas and therefore cannot be described as a widespread or universal phenomenon.

d. UFO sightings are little more than fantasy since there is little chance of intelligent beings existing on any planet apart from Earth.

e. UFO sightings can be verified and legitimized only by scientists and astronomers, and no such 'sightings' till date have been thus verified or legitimized.


4) Which of these is the author's precise outlook on the subject of UFOs and extraterrestrial life?

a. He believes that the presence of intelligent life apart from human beings is possible, but that aliens are visiting us in UFOs is merely an illusion.

b. He believes that extraterrestrial life exists, but it is not advanced enough to send 'UFO's' into space.

c. He believes that extraterrestrial life exists, but UFOs are mere fantasy.

d. He advances the idea of extraterrestrial life while being non-committal as regards the existence of UFOs.

e. He merely states that astronomers believe that extraterrestrial life can exist, without revealing his own opinion, but debunks UFO theories.


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Re: When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Nov 2018, 19:10

+1 kudos to all the posts containing proper explanations for all questions


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Re: When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Dec 2018, 23:29
Can someone discuss question 2? Why is option D incorrect and what exactly does option C mean?
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Re: When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes &nbs [#permalink] 06 Dec 2018, 23:29
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When I talk about UFOs in my introductory astronomy classes

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